“Additional Thoughts on Our Theological Vision:

A Whole-Bible Regulative Principle”

Leviticus 9:1-10:3

March 20, 2022

Faith Presbyterian Church – Evening Service

Pastor Nicoletti

The Reading of the Word

We return this evening to our theme from this morning: our church’s core value of thoughtful and robust liturgical worship.

And our sermon this evening will try to fill in some of the foundation that underlies what was said this morning, to talk about some of the common alternatives, and to consider some implications for it all.

As we do that, we turn to one of the texts alluded to this morning, describing the worship of God’s people under Moses.

Please do listen carefully, for this is God’s word for us this evening.

9:1 On the eighth day Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel, and he said to Aaron, “Take for yourself a bull calf for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, both without blemish, and offer them before Yahweh. And say to the people of Israel, ‘Take a male goat for a sin offering, and a calf and a lamb, both a year old without blemish, for a burnt offering, and an ox and a ram for peace offerings, to sacrifice before Yahweh, and a grain offering mixed with oil, for today Yahweh will appear to you.’” And they brought what Moses commanded in front of the tent of meeting, and all the congregation drew near and stood before Yahweh. And Moses said, “This is the thing that Yahweh commanded you to do, that the glory of Yahweh may appear to you.” Then Moses said to Aaron, “Draw near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering and make atonement for yourself and for the people, and bring the offering of the people and make atonement for them, as Yahweh has commanded.”

So Aaron drew near to the altar and killed the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself. And the sons of Aaron presented the blood to him, and he dipped his finger in the blood and put it on the horns of the altar and poured out the blood at the base of the altar. 10 But the fat and the kidneys and the long lobe of the liver from the sin offering he burned on the altar, as Yahweh commanded Moses. 11 The flesh and the skin he burned up with fire outside the camp.

12 Then he killed the burnt offering, and Aaron’s sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar. 13 And they handed the burnt offering to him, piece by piece, and the head, and he burned them on the altar. 14 And he washed the entrails and the legs and burned them with the burnt offering on the altar.

15 Then he presented the people’s offering and took the goat of the sin offering that was for the people and killed it and offered it as a sin offering, like the first one. 16 And he presented the burnt offering and offered it according to the rule. 17 And he presented the grain offering, took a handful of it, and burned it on the altar, besides the burnt offering of the morning.

18 Then he killed the ox and the ram, the sacrifice of peace offerings for the people. And Aaron’s sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar. 19 But the fat pieces of the ox and of the ram, the fat tail and that which covers the entrails and the kidneys and the long lobe of the liver— 20 they put the fat pieces on the breasts, and he burned the fat pieces on the altar, 21 but the breasts and the right thigh Aaron waved for a wave offering before Yahweh, as Moses commanded.

22 Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. 23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of Yahweh appeared to all the people. 24 And fire came out from before Yahweh and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

10:1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before Yahweh, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before Yahweh and consumed them, and they died before Yahweh. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what Yahweh has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

This is the word of the Lord.  (Thanks be to God.)


As I said, this morning I took a few things for granted which, tonight, I want to consider in a bit more detail.

Now, as I said this morning, even with two sermons we only scratch the surface of this topic. So much more can be said. We haven’t even touched on worship in the Garden of Eden before the fall, or worship in the new heavens and the new earth. We haven’t talked about trinitarian aspects of worship, or worship in prophetic visions. There’s so much more to say, but hopefully these two sermons can at least give us something of a foundation and a big picture to see a bit more clearly the basis of what it means for us to be committed to thoughtful and robust liturgical worship, as a congregation.

And tonight, our focus is on the fact that foundational to our approach is embracing a “whole-bible regulative principle.”

But what do I mean by a “whole-bible regulative principle”?

The Regulative Principle vs the Normative Principle

First we need to ask: What do we mean by the “regulative principle”?

The regulative principle is a Reformed view on worship that is usually contrasted with the normative principle – an approach to worship that has been embraced by other Christian traditions.

The normative principle basically says that when it comes to God’s people worshipping God together, whatever is not prohibited by the Scripture is permitted. And so, you can incorporate all kinds of things into Lord’s Day worship – all kinds of elements, and as long as the Bible doesn’t explicitly say “Don’t do that,” then it’s fine. This approach to worship may start with the elements of worship listed in the Bible, but it’s also fine adding to or elaborating on them as well.

The regulative principle, on the other hand, says that God is only to be worshiped in the ways that God himself has called us to worship him in the Scriptures.

We hold to the regulative principle here – and the reason for that is rooted right in the text we just heard this evening.

In Leviticus 9 the Lord gives specific directions on how he is to be worshipped. And then, in the very next verses, in Leviticus 10:1, Nadab and Abihu, two priests, offer an unauthorized form of worship – a form of worship that, it would appear, while not specifically forbidden in what God has said so far, is also not authorized or prescribed by what God has said.

The result, we read in verse two, is that God kills Nadab and Abihu. And the Reformed tradition has taken that pretty seriously as a fairly clear rejection of the normative principle of worship, and a not-so-subtle exhortation to us to embrace the regulative principle: the idea that God is not to be worshipped according to human imaginations or devices, but only in ways prescribed by the Holy Scriptures. [WCF 21.1]

Now, that might seem to settle things in a pretty straightforward way. But it’s actually more complicated than that.

First of all, most believing Christians who may in theory affirm the normative principle are not as adventurous as we might think in how they apply it. While it’s easy to find extreme examples of the normative principle gone wrong, most evangelical believers instinctively hold pretty close to what the bible explicitly prescribes for worship – at least in the major areas.

Second, the regulative principle is not as simple as it may sound. There are still lots of questions for which we aren’t given a clear direct answer for how we should do things. And our own Westminster Standards – the doctrinal statement of our denomination, which embraces the regulative principle – also acknowledges this. The Confession says: “There are some circumstances concerning the worship of God […] which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.” [WCF 1.6]

In other words, while sometimes we are given clear and specific statements on what we should do, at other times – including some aspects of the worship of God – there are things that we need to figure out according to wisdom (the light of nature, and Christian prudence), while following the general principles of the Word of God.

So the regulative principle doesn’t mean we’ll have a clear proof text for everything we do. Rather, it means that sometimes by clear command, and sometimes by clear example, and other times by interpreting and deducing from biblical principles, and general biblical wisdom, we can determine how we should worship God.

With all that said, once we embrace the regulative principle, where do we go next?

The Regulative Principle Without the Old Testament

As I briefly alluded to this morning, most Christians today apply the regulative principle to the New Testament, and largely neglect the Old Testament.

We’re going to talk about why that’s a problem in a few minutes, but before we do, it’s worth following the logic of that pattern, and seeing the alternatives it offers us.

If we take the regulative principle and apply it to only the New Testament, we end up with a list of elements for worship, but no structure.

When it comes to elements, we see clearly in the New Testament that worship should include the elements of prayer, reading from Scripture, preaching from Scripture, singing psalms and spiritual songs, giving of tithes and offerings, and the sacraments: the Lord’s Supper, and baptism. [WCF 21.3,5]

But when it comes to structure, we’re really given nothing in the New testament … or at least very close to nothing.

And so, many evangelicals see the elements of worship as being dictated by the New Testament, and the structure of worship being one of those things that is left up to us – to the light of nature and Christian prudence.

From there, churches tend to go in one of three directions as they organize their worship.

The Intentionally Historical Structure

The first option is what I’ll call an “intentionally historical structure” for worship. This is where a church intentionally picks an age, and a subsection of the Church that they admire, and they simply model their own worship on theirs – either in its overall pattern, or in its details.

Of course that leaves open the question of which age and region of the Church to model your worship on.

One strong movement, sometimes called the “liturgical movement,” has grown over the last 150 years, but has been especially impactful over the last half century. It has looked back to the early church, often with a special focus on the church of the 4th and 5th centuries as a liturgical “golden age,” and has sought to structure our worship today after theirs.

Others, especially in our circles, have looked to the liturgies of the Reformed tradition. Some have looked to Calvin’s Geneva for guidance, others to Cranmer’s England, and still others to the Puritans.

Now, while there is a lot of unity in Christian worship over the last two-thousand years, there is also a lot of diversity.

And when this approach highly privileges one age over all others, we have to ask why: Why this age of the Church, in this geographical location, over other options? After all, even within the Reformed tradition there is a lot of diversity in worship.

Now, you could do much worse than choosing a faithful time and place from Church history and following their example – that is for sure. But this approach tends to reorder our authorities in worship, and can at the same time easily fall into subjectivism. For one thing, it can run the risk of placing tradition over the Bible itself, as we refuse to further reform our worship and lock it into the blessings and the errors of a particular age and its traditions. But second, the basis for our worship also ultimately becomes subjective. We chose one age to imitate, another church chooses a different age to imitate, and in the end it all really just comes down to personal preference.

The Unintentionally Historical Structure

And so, to avoid this sort of rigid traditionalism, other churches seek to sidestep the whole debate in an attempt to reject the very idea of liturgy.

And that is a working model that dominates many American evangelical churches. There is not some elaborate liturgy, but just a few basic pieces to the worship service. There is usually an opening period of singing and prayer. Then there is a sermon. Then there is some sort of response to the sermon: a final hymn, or sometimes the Lord’s Supper, or some other way to respond. And that’s it.

In American evangelicalism, this sort of format is often treated as almost a neutral default – so much so that if you talk to someone who attends a church like this and you bring up the concept of liturgy, they will often tell you that their church doesn’t have a liturgy. Their worship may be referred to as “non-liturgical.” That is the extent, in some sections of modern evangelicalism, to which this form of worship is treated as neutral or natural – as simple, practical, worship, instead of having a structure or “liturgy.”

Now that said, there is a liturgy in these churches, both in the elements used, the words spoken, and the structure itself. It may not be written, but it’s there. Standard phrases or responses are used by the leaders and the congregation in such churches – often without even thinking about it, to the extent that new folks at the church will take a few weeks to learn what those phrases mean or how they are supposed to respond.

And the structure of such services is usually rigid too. If you ever tried to start a service with the sermon, without any singing beforehand, and then do the Lord’s Supper, and only then begin singing together, people would be thrown off. People would complain.

And despite the attempt to be practical, ahistorical, and non-traditional, such worship is in fact the product of a very specific historical tradition.

John Maynard Keynes, at the end of his magnum opus on economics wrote this – he said: “Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.” [Keynes, 383]

And the same can be said for worship and liturgy. Practical worshippers, who believe themselves quite exempt from any traditional influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct liturgical tradition.

And that is the case in much of evangelical worship today.

And so, the second option, for those who embrace a New-Testament-only regulative principle, is to order your worship by an unintentionally historical structure.

In other words, when we are not intentional about how we will order our worship – about what our liturgy will be – we are usually just following some other model for worship that we inherited without realizing it.

For many evangelical churches today, that model is what liturgical scholar James White has called the “Frontier tradition.”

The “frontier” liturgy developed on the American frontier. As clergy struggled to find ways to minister to people spread out on the frontier, drawing on some aspects of the “sacramental seasons” of Scottish Presbyterianism, they began to hold large tent meetings for worship and preaching. But those events quickly became more oriented towards evangelism of many of the unchurched on the frontier.

These revivalist camp gatherings took their shape based on their goal of bringing people, emotionally, to a place of conversion. The music chosen tended to be designed with more repetition and choruses, to accommodate the unchurched. The music took on a role of emotionally preparing the crowd so that they would be receptive to the words of the preacher. After the sermon, the emphasis was placed on response. This format came to dominate these events: first a period of “preliminaries” in which singing and prayer would emotionally prepare the people to receive the sermon, then the sermon itself, and then some form of response to the sermon.

That model became swept up in the revivalistic approaches of the time, and even before the frontier vanished, leaders of the revivalistic movement like Charles Finney had “domesticated” the format not only for evangelism across the rest of America, but to be adopted as the new liturgical format for Sunday worship inside many churches. And that new format was widely adopted. And it continues to dominate things today. So many people who have never heard of Charles Finney, are still worshiping according to the historic liturgy he adapted from frontier revivalistic gatherings in the 1800s, and promoted in local churches. [White, 171-191]

James White claims that Charles Finney “may be the most influential liturgical reformer in American history.” [176]

Which just goes to show that, to paraphrase Keynes again: “Practical churches, who believe themselves quite exempt from any liturgical influence, are usually slaves of some defunct liturgical reformer.”

The point of all that is simply to say that there is no neutral structure for worship. There is no such thing as non-liturgical worship. We all have a liturgy. If we don’t intentionally choose one, then we usually end up with an unintentionally historical structure, like most American evangelical churches have today.

The Intentionally Theological Structure

That said, a third option for structuring worship comes not from intentionally adopting a historic liturgy, or from trying to be practical and neutral and unintentionally inheriting a historic liturgy, but from trying to theologically structure our worship services ourselves, from scratch.

Now, this approach can, in the right context, yield good results – especially when its theology incorporates both the Old and New testament.

This approach tries to think theologically about our worship, and to shape the service according to our theological convictions.

But it also runs a risk of shaping the liturgy too much in our own image – whether the image of the pastor, or the congregation, or the tradition. In other words, this approach, unchecked, can tend to amplify our own theological idiosyncrasies and errors, rather than correct them.

In more intellectual traditions, didactic mini sermons begin to pop up throughout the service – everything becomes about instruction. In traditions that emphasize guilt, extra rounds of confession may pop up throughout the service – and everything becomes about confessing our sins. In more expressive traditions, praise comes to override other themes – and soon everything is about thanksgiving and praise. In other words, we often need something more stable to orient and correct us.

An intentionally theological approach is not the worst approach. But, I would argue, we can still do better.

The Regulative Principle & The Whole Bible

Because our fourth and final option when faced with the limitations of a New-Testament-only regulative principle, is to turn to the Old Testament and adopt a whole-bible regulative principle.

Because there is, in principle, no good reason why the Old Testament should be flat-out excluded from shaping our worship today.

In fact, I would argue both that the regulative principle requires us to include the Old Testament in our considerations for how we approach our worship, and that the Old Testament gives us models for how to receive and transpose, or conjugate Old Testament practices for our own place in redemptive history. [For discussion on this “conjugation” see Leithart, Priesthood of the Plebs, especially p. 32-47]

So first, the regulative principle really requires us to take the Old Testament as an authority for our worship. Because the regulative principle comes from the Old Testament.

The central text for the regulative principle is what we just heard from Leviticus 10:1-2. If the regulative principle comes from the Book of Leviticus, then how could we say that the Book of Leviticus has nothing of real substance to say about how we worship today? Such a position quickly undermines itself.

And so, the very basis of the regulative principle calls us to take the Old Testament seriously in our worship.

But then, along with that, the Old Testament itself gives us models for how to conjugate the practices we see instituted under Moses for our own point in time in redemptive history.

The coming of Christ changed a lot. But a lot also remained the same. And the coming of Christ was not the first time that God’s people had to conjugate their former practices to a new redemptive setting.

Let me give one smaller, more specific example, and then one broader and larger example.

The first example, which I’ve mentioned before, comes from Numbers 5. In Numbers 5:17 a priestly rite is described which required the use of dirt taken from the dirt floor of the tabernacle. That’s the command that is given under Moses. But when the temple is built under Solomon, the floor of the temple is no longer made of dirt. It is now wood overlaid with gold (1 Kings 6:30). So the question is: how is the rite to be carried out? [Jordan, 234]

Strikingly, we’re not given an answer in the Bible. No new Book of Leviticus is given for the age of the temple. Instead, it’s at this time, that the wisdom literature of the Bible comes into being. God does not reissue Leviticus for the age of the temple. Instead, he gives them the old Leviticus, and he calls them to use wisdom to adjust – to transform, or to “conjugate” – the old rite for a new redemptive setting. [Jordan, 226-227]

We get a second example of this in the role of the Levites and music under David.

Once the temple was built, the special calling of the Levites to transport the tabernacle and its furniture would come to an end. What then should be done with them?

In applying wisdom to that question, David not only finds a new role for the Levites, but he revolutionizes Israel’s worship. David calls them to a ministry of music. [Jordan, 234; See Leithart, From Silence to Song for more on this.]

While there are songs that give praise to God from the beginning in Israel, it’s noteworthy that there is no prescribed role for music or song in the tabernacle. We get a lot of specificity in the first five books of the Bible about worship in the tabernacle, but there is no music ministry prescribed or even mentioned there.

But in wisely reassigning the Levites, David re-adapts and conjugates Israel’s worship for the age of the temple, and music becomes extremely important in Israel’s worship. It becomes bound up in sacrificial worship [Psalm 107:22], and by the time of the New Testament church, it takes the place of some aspects of sacrificial worship, as the Church is called with their lips to offer up “a sacrifice of praise to God.” [Hebrews 13:15]

In each of these movements, it’s not that the liturgy of Moses is cast aside, or that the Book of Leviticus is constantly updated, but in each age of redemptive history, God’s people we called on to transform, and conjugate, and reapply the older commands of God for their time and place in the kingdom.

Therefore, rooted in the source of the regulative principle, and committed to use wisdom in reapplying God’s guidance from earlier eras, we look to the whole Bible for guidance on both the structure and the elements of our worship.

Let’s briefly consider the implications for both of those – both the structure, and the elements of our worship.

A Whole-Bible Regulative Principle & the Structure of Worship

The implications for the structure we largely considered this morning.

And we see it again in our text this evening – the biblical pattern of worship of the Lord calling, then cleansing, then consecrating, then communing with, and finally commissioning his people.

That’s what we see again in Leviticus 9. In the first seven verses, the Lord calls the people to worship, and they respond.

In verses eight through sixteen, first for himself, and then for the congregation, Aaron offers the sin offering and then the burnt or ascension offering – symbolically cleansing and then consecrating the people.

After that, in verse seventeen, is the tribute offering (or the “grain offering”), where the people commit themselves to the Lord.

In verses eighteen through twenty-one the peace offering is made – a meal eaten by the worshiper before God, as God communes with his people.

And finally, in verse 22, Aaron lifts up his hands towards the people and blesses them, placing the name of the Lord on them [Numbers 6:22-27], and thus also commissioning them to go and live as his people.

The glory and the fire of verses 23-24 signified the Lord’s acceptance of this worship.

The Lord calls his people, the Lord cleanses them, the Lord converses with and consecrates them, the Lord communes with them, and the Lord commissions them.

Thus, as we consider the whole bible and its implications for our worship, it’s in passages like this one that we find the structure of our worship.

A Whole-Bible Regulative Principle & the Elements of Worship

But taking the whole Bible into account should also influence how we think of the elements of our worship, and the details of how we carry them out.

Some things, like sacrifice, are conjugated and transformed in significant ways. But other elements may pass into our worship with less adjustment.

Think, for example, of our bodily posture in worship. Here we raise our hands together in praise, we sit, we stand, we kneel.

Our kneelers sometimes throw people off. I’ve heard multiple stories of people new to our church viewing them as seeming a little too “Catholic.”

But kneeling is a biblical posture before God. It is a way the Bible calls us to humbly approach him.

We hear it sometimes in our call to worship from Psalm 95: “Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” [95:6]

And it’s not even limited to the Old Testament – we see those who approach Jesus in humility in the gospels doing so on their knees. [Matthew 17:14; Matthew 20:20;  Mark 1:40]. And in the early church, when Paul prayed with the believers in Tyre, we are told that they did so on their knees. [Acts 21:5]

I don’t care if the Roman Catholics are known for kneeling. If the Bible tells me that Paul, and the believers who knew Jesus, and the people of Israel, all knelt before the Lord their Maker, then so should we. We’re not willing to let the Catholics or any other denomination have such biblical things all to themselves.

Or consider the choir. We love our choir, but the concept has bothered some Christians. The question comes up: should we really have music sung in which the congregation does not sing? We don’t see choirs in the New Testament, do we?

But we do in the Old Testament. The Levitical choir comes up repeatedly in the Book of Chronicles as part of the worship of God’s people, established by David. [1 Chronicles 9:33, 15:16, 15:27; 2 Chronicles 5:11-13, 9:11, 20:21-22, 23:18, 29:30, 35:15]

We don’t need to do theological gymnastics to justify our choir – the model comes from the Bible itself in the Old Testament.

Or think about visual art in the sanctuary. Many in the Reformed tradition have been uncomfortable with any kind of visual art in the sanctuary. Rachel and I were once part of a PCA church that worshiped in a sanctuary with all white walls, no decoration in sight. At one point the question came up of adding a simple wooden cross to the wall. The session became deadlocked on the issue and it had to be tabled indefinitely. That’s how concerned some Reformed Christians are over any kind of visual art in the sanctuary.

But then look at God’s directions for the tabernacle. I am struck by the fact that the same God who gave the second commandment, also gave numerous commandments about the way his sanctuary should be filled with all sorts of images and visual art – representing both earthly things and heavenly beings.

We are blessed with visual art on our walls during certain seasons of the liturgical year. But it leads to the question: Should we have more? I’m not sure what that should look like … but I do know that we cannot simply dismiss those instructions to put visual art in the tabernacle any more than we can dismiss the second commandment.

Or consider the minister’s clothing. Some are thrown off that our ministers wear a robe. But this is a pattern we see, again, in the Scriptures. In the context of worship, the priests – those called to be ambassadors for God in leading the people in worship – wear a robe to set them apart: to emphasize that they are functioning as God’s representatives, and not as individuals themselves.

Of course some in the Reformed tradition accept that, and we have the black Genevan robe as the standard within the Reformed church.

That is good, in many ways, for setting God’s ambassador apart.

But I wonder if the Bible may not nudge us to consider other possibilities as well. For one thing, it’s striking that when God’s heavenly messengers show up in the Bible, they are clothed in white robes – not in black. Might there be something significant in that for us to consider?

Also, the robe of Aaron and the priests had quite a bit more color than ours do. Those biblical robes, God said, were to be “for glory and for beauty.” [Exodus 28:2]

Now, I’m not suggesting that we just copy the robes of the Levitical priests – like so many things, these elements must be conjugated and transformed for our time and place in redemptive history. But it may be worth asking ourselves: should the robe of a minister on this side of the resurrection of Christ really be more stern and grim than the robe of a minister on the other side? I’m not entirely sure on the best way to apply that … but it’s something worth giving more thought.

Or, for one last example, what about smells in worship? I remember being really struck by a sermon Pastor Rayburn preached over seven years ago, on Israel’s worship, and on the prevalence of smell.

Pastor Rayburn put it like this – he said: “I’ve often wondered about all those smells. There must have been a smell to the tabernacle that was memorable for anyone who had been there. Incense was burning in the sanctuary, enough probably to be smelled outside. And that would mix with the smell of meat cooking on the altar […]. In addition there was frankincense burning on the altar. […] Our sense of smell is powerful, but smell is the sense we have virtually eliminated from our worship. You might smell the wine before you drink or slightly the bread before you eat it at the Supper, but otherwise our sense of smell is unused in worship. That wasn’t the case in ancient Israel. I wonder if we are right to have eliminated smell so completely.” Then he adds: “Not a subject for tonight, but one to think about.”

And as I consider that this evening, I have to come to the same conclusion. It’s not a subject for us to dig deeper into tonight … but it is one that is worth thinking about further … isn’t it?

Because our calling in worship is not just to be “Reformed” but to be always reforming according to Scripture.

Smells, visual art, white robes with colors, kneelers, they may not be part of our Reformed tradition … but the biggest question for us must not be what our tradition says – it must be what the Bible says … and where it leads us.

A Historically & Theologically Informed Whole-Bible Regulative Principle

Those sorts of open questions can seem daunting … and a little bit scary.

But we’re not left to consider them alone.

Because while the historic church, and our own theological constructions, should not be our ultimate authorities in worship, both of them are still wise guides, that are given for our help.

Because the questions we face require wisdom. And we are not left alone to seek such wisdom. We have our theology – not just from ourselves, but from the living Christian tradition, as Christians, and churches, and theologians around the world wrestle with these questions. And then we have the wisdom of the past – not just of some golden age of Christian worship, but two thousand years of Christian worship.

We must sift it, of course. There is much we will disagree with. But wisdom is found in a multitude of counselors. And as we wrestle with the Scriptures for our worship, there is much to be gained by doing it in conversation with the worshiping church of two thousand years, seeking to receive the wisdom they have to offer, while sifting out the errors they may have fallen into.

And so, our whole-bible regulative principle should be both historically and theologically informed.

We won’t do this perfectly, of course. But it is the task that God has called his people to, as we seek to bring the whole counsel of God to bear on our worship together, drawing from the diverse wisdom of God’s people.

And as we do, we strive to be a church that seeks to worship our God, and to encounter him each Lord’s Day, through thoughtful and robust liturgical worship.


 This sermon draws on material from:

Farley, Michael A. Reforming Reformed Worship: Theological Method and Liturgical Catholicity in American Presbyterianism, 1850-2005. For St. Louis University, St. Louis, MO. Unpublished Dissertation, 2007.

Farley, Michael A. “What is ‘Biblical’ Worship?”: Biblical Hermeneutics and Evangelical Theologies of Worship. JETS 51/3. September 2008, 591-613. You can access this paper (which I highly recommend) here: https://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/51/51-3/JETS%2051-3%20591-613%20Farley.pdf [Note: this is a good place to start on the topic of the structure of worship being based on the sacrificial and covenantal pattern, as well as having a whole-bible regulative principle.]

Farley, Michael A. Lecture Notes from History and Theology of Christian Worship (EM570). Given at Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, MO. Fall, 2010.

Jordan, James B. Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World. Eugene OR: Wipf and Stock, 1988.

Keller, Timothy. “Evangelistic Worship.” Redeemer City to City. January 1, 2001. https://redeemercitytocity.com/articles-stories/evangelistic-worship

Keynes, John Maynard. The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1997 (Originally published 1936).

Leithart, Peter J. A House For My Name: A Survey of the Old Testament. Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2000.

Leithart, Peter J. The Priesthood of the Plebs. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2003.

Leithart, Peter J. From Silence to Song: The Davidic Liturgical Revolution. Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2003.

Leithart, Peter J. Theopolitan Liturgy. Monroe, LA: Athanasius Press, 2019.

Meyers, Jeffrey J. The Lord’s Service: The Grace of Covenant Renewal Worship. Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2003.

Rainey, A.F. “The Order of Sacrifices in the Old Testament Ritual Texts.” Bib 51 (1970) 485-498.

Rayburn, Robert S. “The Burnt Offering – Leviticus 1:1-17” Preached September 7, 2014 at Faith Presbyterian Church in Tacoma, WA. https://www.faithtacoma.org/leviticus/2014-09-07-pm

Smith, James K. A. Whose Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2006.

Smith, James K.A. Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation. Cultural Liturgies Volume 1. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2009. [Note: This is a good place to start on the topic of how liturgy shapes and disciples us.]

Smith, James K.A. Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works. Cultural Liturgies Volume 2. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2013.

White, James F. Protestant Worship: Traditions in Transition. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1989.

CCLI Copyright License 751114; CCLI Streaming License CSPL116892